The Culion inter-island bridge project, a portfolio project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that would connect the island town to Coron and Busuanga, has been suspended amid questions about its absence of proper permits and growing local opposition.
PCSD executive director Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta told Palawan News the DPWH had voluntarily suspended the project and will stop the preliminary construction of opening the road leading to the first bridge under its plan.
“Kusa na lang silang huminto. So ngayon, yong work that has to be coordinated is the implementation of mitigating measures doon sa work already commenced, which is yong opening ng road towards the first bridge. We’re going to also take an active part in making sure that those mitigating measures are implemented at the soonest possible time,” Atty. Matta said in an interview Thursday.
The PCSD earlier acknowledged that the project had not been issued a Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance which is required of all major projects in Palawan that will impact on the environment. Matta said they have yet to see the complete plans of the project from the DPWH and determine if it will comply with the Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN) Law.
Organizers of the Save Lusong Gardens and Shipwrecks movement, a local group that had launched an online signature campaign against the project, warning about the destruction of coral reefs and shipwrecks that serve as dive attractions around the area, welcomed its suspension.
“It’s a great sign, and really appreciate and congratulate executive Director Matta on this. But of course it is still far from over. We need to ensure proper assessments and process is followed and that the stakeholder consultations will push through. At the end of the day, sana hindi lang ito token suspension to comply with the necessary documents, but to ensure protection of environment, IPs and our tourism stakeholders,” Danica Lopez Williams, main organizer of the movement, stated in a text message to Palawan News.
Meanwhile, Matta said he will advise the DPWH and other national agencies to closely coordinate with them projects in Palawan .
“I’m scheduling a meeting with the entire DPWH regional office on Tuesday or Wednesday para ma-discuss yong project na ‘to, ano ang detalye sa kanila. Tapos within the next two weeks, nagpapa-schedule na ako ngayon through NEDA (National Economic Development Authority) regional development council na lahat ng line agencies sa MIMAROPA, ime-meet namin ang agenda is to make it clear to them na bago kayo magsimula ng project, bago kayo mag-planning ng project for Palawan, magkonsulta muna kayo sa PCSD,” he said.
“Kasi may planning division kami dito, para yong mga projects ninyo, aligned sa mga projects ng LGUs at may environmental consistency, may environmental compliance. Kasi kung wala kaming nod, hindi kayo makakakuha ng ECC saka ng area clearance,” he added.